Friday, February 10, 2017

Our Annual Trip to the Land of the Mouse

Orlando is best known as home to Walt Disney World and a host of other theme parks, but no mice, killer whales, or movie characters were involved.  Today was our annual visit to the Orlando Hamcation, which we have been doing without missing a year since 1982.
Despite the 35 years of attendance, today was a first: the first Friday we've ever attended.  I've been retired for 14 months now, and while I could have attended on Friday last year, it honestly never occurred to me to do so.  Today made it abundantly clear it's a good day to go.  We got better parking than we have for years, crowds were much easier to navigate than they have been for years, and the whole experience was better than it has been for many years.

What was familiar: essentially everything.  There was the usual collection of old radios, some in use for over half a century, along with radios from every decade since then.  If anything, a larger number of dealers were selling the various brands of Chinese VHF/HF handie talkies like Baofeng, Wouxun and others I haven't heard of yet.  Speaking as a guy who puts a lot of time on a smoker, the folks who do the barbecue there put up a fine lunch.  $8 for a stuffed brisket or pulled pork sandwich is really in line with what you pay in a sit-down restaurant, and it's good barbecue. 

On the other hand: they played with the layout, moving some buildings and club functions around.  In the spot where the hosting club has always had their Welcome booth, featured supplier Heil Audio was showing and selling.  The club's booth was moved to a lower tier building.  

What was missing was that there didn't appear to be any big product announcements going on.  I also noticed there seemed to be fewer of the more leading-edge things, like the FreeDV digital voice group that was there last year.  I noticed that with all the folks selling the Chinese radios, I didn't see anyone selling the HF radio I talked about here in late '15.  I saw fewer Arduino project kits than last year, and given that I've probably seen a dozen web-based projects that made a CNC-driven laser wood burner out of a DVD burner LED, I expected to see something like that.  Nope.

The weather was nearly ideal with beautiful blue skies and a high of about 70.  The crowd was loving it.  The Hamcation's website says that they are now the number 2 hamfest in the country, behind Dayton, which will be in Xenia, Ohio, this year and won't be in Dayton for the foreseeable future.  The hamfest world seems to be shifting to be more of a Friday/Saturday event than a Saturday/Sunday event.  It's the case in Dayton, it's the case in Orlando and it's even pushing into our little town.  If someone is taking a vacation to go to a very out of town hamfest, it makes sense that putting the event on Friday isn't a big change in plans.  Sundays have been marginal at best at hamfests for as far back as I can recall, and Saturday still seems to be the busiest day. 


  1. Thanks for the review of Hamcation.

    All the years I lived in Illinois I never made it to Dayton, or the Indy 500 for that matter.

    1. Re: living nearby but never attending Dayton, I've got a friend who grew up in Dayton, but didn't become a ham until he was out of college and working for Motorola. First time he went to the Dayton fest was something like six years after he moved out of town.

      It seems that last May we attended the last Dayton Hamvention at the HARA arena. Honestly, at one point yesterday I thought to myself, "the big difference between Orlando and Dayton is that the toilets flush here"!!

  2. And they don't overflow into the swap/parking area!

  3. Thanks for the review. How was the traffic on I-4? Maybe I will try Friday next year. As I mentioned to you, I just can't handle the parking and crowds on Saturday. And I will remember the Q recommendation.

    1. We took 528 to I-4 in the morning and left late enough so that we were there around 10, and later than the worst of rush hour. It was smooth with no slowdowns, and speed a bit under the limit only in a few spots.

      On the way home I wondered what the GPS would recommend and it avoided I-4. It took me to the John Young Parkway and east west expressway, then to the Bee Line. That was full speed the whole way and was the easiest trip home from Orlando, I've ever had. I think those were toll roads.